Your smartphone is your lifeline to your business when you're on the go. If you lose that smartphone, sensitive company data (and even personal data) could fall into unwanted hands. There are plenty of third-party apps and security systems that can help you to protect that data — but sometimes, you simply must wipe the phone clean of anything that could bring about disaster to you personally or your company.
Thankfully, Google and Android have you covered, without having to install any third-party software. With KitKat, after a brief setup, you can visit the Android Device Manager (ADM) to either ring, lock, and erase. In this post, I'll demonstrate how to set this up and remotely erase a Verizon-branded HTC M8. Without a doubt, this is the easiest way to protect the data associated with your Google account and your business (should your phone be lost or stolen). Note: This is not a means to retrieve your phone from a thief (you should leave that up to the authorities).
You must do this before you lose your phone (or before it gets stolen). Open the app drawer and tap the Google settings icon. Locate and tap the Android Device Manager entry. Here you'll find two entries (Figure A).
Setting up remote wipe on an HTC One M8.
By default, Remotely locate this device will be enabled but not Allow remote lock and erase. Tap to enable the latter feature so that you can use the ADM website to remotely wipe your device. After you tap the entry, you'll have to tap Activate (Figure B).
Allowing the ADM to have access to your phone.
Using the ADM
Now, it's time to fire up the website and remotely wipe that device. Log into your Gmail account (from a web browser), point the browser to the ADM, and accept the agreement (if this is your first time to visit the tool). You should have a drop-down that allows you to select the device you want to manage (Figure C).
Select the device in question from the drop-down.
With the device selected, you might want to test the system and ring the device (if you still have the phone). Once you are certain you have selected the right device (measure twice, cut once), click the Enable Lock & Erase button. Once you've enabled Lock and Erase, click the Erase button to send the wipe command to the device. You'll have to click Erase again to confirm the action. Once you click Erase, a factory reset will begin. Warning: There is no way to stop the action once it starts. If the device is not on, the erase will begin the first time it is powered up.
After the remote erase is initiated, you'll receive an email (to the Gmail account associated with the device) from the ADM, notifying you of the erase. The phone will then be clear of all sensitive (and not so sensitive) data.
That's it. You now have the ability to easily wipe your phone from any web browser, without the need for third-party software or services. Should you lose your Android device (or have it stolen), Google has you covered so that you don't lose sensitive company (or personal) data.
Have you ever had to remotely wipe your smartphone? If so, how did you manage the task? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.